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Margaret Keyser, Principal

Margaret’s 23 year career in conflict transformation and reconciliation took shape in her native South Africa. She was a student leader in the anti-apartheid struggle at the University of the Western Cape, where she was the first woman to qualify for ordination at its theological school. She then went on to do conflict transformation work at the grassroots level to help prepare ordinary citizens for a new South Africa. The work involved training, organizing, facilitating and mediating conflicts among groups, communities, diverse institutions including churches, schools, and workplaces. She continued to help local communities in the Western Cape embrace the Truth and Reconciliation process called forth by Nelson Mandela as a necessary means to save their nation at a decisive moment in its history, a process that brought people to the place of forgiving their enemies, even those who brutally killed family members, by coming to discover their own humanity in theirs.

In 1998 Margaret brought these experiences and skills to the United States where over the past 18 years she worked in several cities and states, and applied them effectively to transform conflict-ridden situations in schools, government agencies, trade unions, churches, etc., always adapting them to the particular circumstances and cultural contexts involved. She worked in the following capacities: as Executive Director of the Center for Conflict Transformation in Hartford, Connecticut, for which she received an award for her leadership in establishing this organization; as adjunct professor at Hartford Seminary, Director of Training with Plowshares Institute, an international Peace building Institute, and more recently as Executive Director of the Greater Hartford Interfaith Coalition for Equity and Justice. (See formal biography here)

James M. Ault, Jr. (Ph.D), Associate

James Ault, award-winning documentary filmmaker, author, and ethnographer who studies community life in diverse settings, was educated at Harvard College and Brandeis University (Ph.D. in Sociology) by some of the leading thinkers of the age. He turned to documentary filmmaking—in its intimate cinéma vérité style—as an effective means to bridge even the most challenging differences in culture and worldview he dealt with in his studies. His first film, Born Again, an intimate portrait of a fundamentalist Baptist church, won a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival and was broadcast as a national prime time special on PBS. It was praised by people as far apart politically as Norman Lear and Jerry Falwell. His award-winning book on that project, Spirit and Flesh (Knopf `04) was called “a seminal opus for bridge-building between fundamentalists and liberals” and “the best single-volume explanation of why American fundamentalist Christianity thrives among certain people and will not die out” (The Washington Post). Jim brings to our work his passion for people and for bridging differences in culture and worldview dividing them, as well as his skills in using documentary filmmaking and nonfiction writing to do so. He has just released a two-part series on Christianity’s explosive growth in Africa, and completed pieces on Latino and multicultural ministries in the Episcopal Church, including the story of how an openly gay woman priest is helping revive a struggling Anglo/Latino congregation in California. Learn more about his work at his website. See formal biography here. Read more about his observations on our work in conflict transformation.

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